Posted on December 22, 2022
By Krystal Redman (KR), DrPH, MHA, (they/she), Executive Director
Foreword – SABCS 2022
We’re back at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) this year, where our goal is to bring the most important and relevant breast cancer research updates back to our members, and to be an outspoken voice on behalf of people living with breast cancer. BCAction brings a unique advocacy lens to this space, where we elevate our patient perspective and keep breast cancer researchers, doctors, and scientists accountable to the people they aim to benefit. We’re able to occupy a uniquely patient-oriented perspective in the breast cancer field because of our strict conflict of interest policy—we’ll never take money from any entity that profits from, or contributes to, breast cancer.
Some of the highlights of this year’s SABCS include:
- Big data agencies are increasingly making efforts to focus more on clinical trial inclusiveness; however, building trust and creating equity in health requires more than just taking a “look at inequities in clinical trials;” you also have to be transparent, take accountability, and be intentional about applying methods for dismantling barriers to true access to equitable care–including trials.
- Researchers are increasingly unafraid to name that the bureaucracy of Big Pharma cannot dictate the scientific agenda.
More than ever before, breast cancer advocates have a seat at the table – though we still have a long way to go to centering people living with and at risk of breast cancer in the medical and scientific communities.
- Only 5% of breast cancer patients enroll in clinical trials, and they are primarily white. despite the fact that the barriers to participation in clinical trials are almost identical for the Latinx/Hispanic, rural, elderly, AAPI, and male communities. We have a moral imperative to create a model that includes anti-bias training for both clinicians and investigators.
- Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs) are a long-awaited response to the lack of inclusion of the patient perspective in the design of clinical trials. We may be getting closer to integrating them, but we must broaden the patient support infrastructure to include psychologists and social workers, and we must provide communication training for doctors to improve their skills if we want to build trust in the system.
- Disparities in distant recurrence–free survival have been attributed to an enhanced pro-metastatic response after neoadjuvant chemotherapy in Black women with breast cancer compared to white women; however, this is not likely the whole story.
- We all know this by now, however it is very important to consciously remember that education, creating awareness, and making healthy lifestyle choices are not enough to address and end the breast cancer epidemic, we need systemic change! Preventing the occurrence of breast cancer will always trump the use of these experimental clinical trials that haven’t had the best track record of actually improving people’s overall quality of life.
- And, finally, as disparities in our healthcare systems and environmental toxins and pollutants remain rampant, causing the increased number of breast cancer diagnoses to 1 in 8 people assigned female at birth, the fact remains that Big Pharma remains too influential within the cancer industry. As the watchdog of the breast cancer industry, it is imperative we continue to voice that financial toxicity is correlated with worse quality of life and overall breast cancer –related stress.
The largest breast cancer symposium in the world, the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS), is dominated by researchers and clinical practitioners eager to present and discuss the latest research and practices. In this space, the fast paced environment, medical jargon, and complex science can be hard to understand. Patients are asked to trust the science, a common theme weaved throughout the five-day symposium, however, oftentimes the patient voice is not centered in these spaces. Over the years, there has been a growing presence of patient advocates who attend this symposium, but there is so much more that needs to be done in the field of breast cancer research.
As the watchdog of the breast cancer movement, we educate, organize and TAKE ACTION for systemic change. Serving in the unique role of the breast cancer industry watchdog means we work tirelessly to demand accountability and transparency from institutions, corporations, nonprofits, and agencies that impact the lives of people living with and at risk of breast cancer, to address and end this disease.
Our reputation for honesty and truth-telling allows us to tell truth to power, and to bring you the straight-talk we’re known for when translating the science back to our members, whom it most directly impacts.
This year’s SABCS has concluded, but we will continue to use our independent, watchdog voice on behalf of people living with and at risk of breast cancer in our work towards achieving health justice.